Food is one of the biggest sources of unhappiness for many of the women I work with. Crazy, right? Something that is meant to provide so much nourishment to our bodies can actually make people feel pretty depressed. But it’s not the food itself that’s making people unhappy—it’s the relationship they’ve developed with food. So many women have developed a negative relationship with food and have learned to feel bad about themselves after eating it. How has this happened?
We’ve been taught to fear certain foods.
To start, there are tons of diets out there telling you that they’ve got a quick fix but you must eliminate whole food groups in order to drop some weight or lead a healthier lifestyle. These diets will tell you that you can’t eat any carbs, you have to avoid sugar, or you have to eliminate fruit (etc.,etc., etc.) And a lot of us buy in! While some of these diets may be beneficial for certain health conditions, most of them are unrealistic for the majority of us and simply create a fear-based relationship with food. Since we are taught that these foods are “bad,” we are filled with guilt and shame when we eat them. What’s worse? We tend to binge when we eat these “forbidden foods” because we are living with the scarcity mindset: “I don’t know when I’ll be able to eat pizza again and I’ve already messed up my diet, so I might as well eat the entire pizza.” This obviously leads to more guilt and shame, and the cycle of unhappiness continues.
Emotional Eating Has Skyrocketed
Somewhere along the line we’ve also learned to use food as a source of comfort and a way to numb negative emotions, also known as emotional eating. You know the scene: you’ve had a bad day at work, so you come home, grab a bag of chips, sit down on the couch and watch TV. Then suddenly the entire bag of chips is gone! Now you’re left feeling worse than you did before; on top of your bad day, now you feel bad about yourself for eating so much junk. We’ve ALL been there at some point, but it becomes a problem when you’re regularly using food as a coping skill for uncomfortable emotions. This undoubtedly leads to unwanted weight gain and shame, furthering our belief that food is “bad.” But in reality, it’s just the way we’ve been using food that has become problematic.
The solution? Mindful Eating
I talk a lot about mindful eating with my clients and fully believe in this approach as a way to develop a healthy relationship with food. By taking the time to practice mindful eating, we can learn to listen to our bodies, eat in moderation, and eliminate the idea of “bad” foods. Eating mindfully can also teach us the tools to identify the emotions that we’re feeling instead of trying to shove them down them with a bowl of ice-cream. Once we’re aware of our emotional eating tendencies, it’s much easier to implement healthier, more effective coping skills. The outcome = less guilt and much more happiness.
Want to change your relationship with food?
I’m talking all this and more in my 5 part course that’s currently in the works. Sign-up to be the first to know about the release date, including 50% off when you pre-order!